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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 3, 2011 12:18am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

Really. You know what's really shocking? I like Corrina too, aside from Weir's singing.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 3, 2011 12:21am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

Count me among the "shocked" although I feel somewhat the same way you do. My big problem with Corrina is that the song part lasts too long and is over-arranged. One of the things I really don't understand about the GD is their failure to grasp how their own best material worked.

Corrina would have been much better if the band had gotten rid of the annoying and repetitive group-singing glissandos and chopped the arrangement in half so the whole song lasted no longer than the singing portion of Playing in the Band.

All of the GD's "best" material is characterized by incredibly brief and simple arrangements of the sung portion. As the band became more skilled at writing full songs, for some reason they stopped creating small songs based on a single strong musical idea, which are what work best for improvisation.

It seems so musically obvious to me, and I just don't grasp why they didn't have the insight to create more tiny songs with a single, interesting riff to use as an improv springboard. I think somehow the concept of a "song" as a larger, finished composition got in the way. Some kind of ego-involvement or something just blinded (deafened?) them to the basic source of what the hell they were doing.

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Poster: snow_and_rain Date: Aug 3, 2011 6:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

"All of the GD's "best" material is characterized by incredibly brief and simple arrangements of the sung portion."

In a word: no.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 3, 2011 6:58am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

Do you disagree that Dark Star, The Other One, and Playing in the Band represents the band's strongest improvisational frameworks?

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Poster: snow_and_rain Date: Aug 3, 2011 8:18am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

Well, I would agree that those three songs are among the band's biggest jam launchers -- that seems obvious enough. Of course even then you'd need to consider the era.

But you said "best material."

"All of the GD's "best" material is characterized by incredibly brief and simple arrangements of the sung portion."

That's quite a different thing from "best songs for launching extended free-form jamming."

And even so, Playin in the Band is hardly a simple arrangement. Simpler than some, but 10/4 time with all those herky-jerky changes is not what I'd call simple. Of course, it led to some great open-ended jamming, but that's another matter.

As for their best "material," Let it Grow and Terrapin would appear on most people's lists (though Terrapin would probably spark some debate) and again, these are not simple arrangements.

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Poster: lobster12 Date: Aug 4, 2011 7:32am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

I'd also throw Bird Song in that group

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 3, 2011 8:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

Did you read LIA's post and my response? I already explained that I was using the word "best" to refer to the most important jam songs, because that is the most important part of what the Grateful Dead did, the large open-ended jams in 68-74, with those three songs in particular being at the heart of most of the best jams.

I completely agree that the best-composed songs as freestanding songs were different material, like Terrapin Station. I was trying to highlight the contrast in approach between something like Terrapin and a song like The Other One, to point out the tension between what works best for improvisation versus more elaborately composed material.

The fact that Playin is an unusual time signature, and explores different ways of subdividing a ten-beat cycle doesn't mean the arrangement of the song itself is complex - it's just 3 verse+choruses with an instrumental bridge, and it is very short, the singing part is always over in less than 3 minutes. Playin is definitely the most complexly arranged of the big jamming tunes though, especially if you look at the original arrangement with guaranteed reprise.

The fact that the Playin reprise became detached, and eventually often dispensed with entirely, is something that demonstrates the point I'm trying to make - similarly with Truckin, and how it shed its reprise. The more repetitions and elaborations and contrasting sections you have within a song, the harder it is to really open the song up, for time reasons if nothing else.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 3, 2011 3:16am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

"All of the GD's "best" material is characterized by incredibly brief and simple arrangements of the sung portion. As the band became more skilled at writing full songs, for some reason they stopped creating small songs based on a single strong musical idea..."

Really? I thought Dark Star & the Other One were the big exceptions in this regard.
Let's see, as far as early band-composed songs... New Potato has a very long & over-arranged song part for us to suffer through before the jam starts! Truckin' is not exactly a brief little ditty; and in Alligator likewise we have a long wait through a song that's almost unrelated to the subsequent jam. Bird Song is simple, but still goes through a full regular "song" before the solo, as does Scarlet Begonias, or Here Comes Sunshine, or China Cat. China Cat's perhaps the smallest of these, with the song dispatched in quick time - but then, usually so is the jam. He's Gone is the longest example; despite being simplicity itself, we sometimes have to wait up to 10 minutes before the jam!
Playing in the Band is maybe a close approach to what you're thinking of - although the song itself is still cobbled together more from 2 or 3 different riffs, and is not the simplest arrangement in its lurches between riffs (and for that matter was jam-free in its first year). Many of Weir's songs that eventually got jammed-out, like Let It Grow or Estimated or later songs, are not at all what I'd call brief or simple. Some of Garcia's most extended songs are very simple, just with long solos in-between the verses - Eyes, Fire, Franklin's, Sugaree... Eyes is the most jammed-out of that bunch, the jam practically springs from the groove - actually I think there's still too much "song" in that song! (Caution is a similar case.) Anyway, without going further, practically all the songs I can think of that developed a jam were fully developed & full-length before the jam grew into them.

So, I'm a little puzzled by what you mean... Perhaps a three-minute song portion seems briefer to you than it does to me! Maybe I'm misunderstanding you & going on about nothing. Maybe you're thinking of the early shift from Dead tunes that grew out of jams, to Hunter/Garcia or Weir tunes that were composed more as proper "album" songs.
There may be musical reasons why some songs grew & some didn't (fewer chords, or more adaptable keys, or such), but I feel like almost any early or mid-period song the Dead wrote COULD have been opened up, but few were. Take examples like Comes a Time or Crazy Fingers - in '76 we saw how even relatively complex, chord-rich songs like those could open up into extended closing jams, though they were cut short in later years (The Wheel was one I never understood why it had to end so soon) - and Phil's later bands have explored this approach to many songs. (In many of Weir's more jammed-out songs, on the other hand, I notice that the jams are more self-enclosed and stick to the song structure, maybe because his arrangements are more complicated and the music can't "escape.")

I agree though, that from the late '70s on, the Dead were almost perverse in writing a group of songs that lended themselves very little to open jams. Perhaps this is what you meant when you said their compositional side was in conflict with their improvisations... The Dead were usually pretty strict in picking which songs they "allowed" to grow.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 3, 2011 4:22am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

I should have been more clear. I was referring specifically to "Dark Star" "The Other One" and "Playing in the Band" when I referred to the band's "best material" - I meant the absolute top rank most important jam songs.

For songs-as-songs there are certainly better songs, and I wasn't meaning to imply that all of the wonderful material that is somewhat less purely improvisational (like Here Comes Sunshine and many of the others you listed) is not great material with important performances.

I was just making the point that the songs which have the most important improvisation over the whole lifespan of the band are all very much just a basic musical idea and a fairly short and simple sung portion.

I think all the examples you gave demonstrate that in some ways the band started taking a different view of improvisation. They started trying to create a more specific mood and texture that was intended for a more brief exploration. The jams connected to songs like Estimated, Scarlet, and the like usually stay within the defined "feel" of the song.

I think you understand what I mean, I just didn't make the point very clear. Viewed as a song, Scarlet Begonias is a much better song than Dark Star - but as a context for improvisation, as wonderful as the Scarlet jams were (both in 74 and during the ->Fire era) I don't think anyone believes it was a significant as the more free-form material.

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Poster: snow_and_rain Date: Aug 3, 2011 6:42am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: What Do You Like About The 80's ?

Corrina has surprised me in the past. I really cringe at the overwrought song structure (the bridge is truly an awful piece of music). But I have to say, it was one of the best parts of the Furthur show I saw last month. Very well jammed. I also saw the Dead play it in '93, and the drive toward drums included a very pleasant little MLB jam that really took me by surprise.